new york marijuana decriminalization assembly
Medical Marijuana Policy

Patients And Families Rally In New York To Demand Emergency Access To Medical Marijuana

new york marijuanaPatients, family members, and advocates stood with legislators from both sides of the aisle yesterday in support of A.7060 (Gottfried) / S.5086 (Griffo), a bill that would direct the state to establish a program to help critically ill patients obtain emergency access to medical marijuana as soon as possible. The bill, introduced by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb in the Assembly and Senator Joseph Griffo in the Senate, comes almost exactly a year after the legislature passed New York’s medical marijuana bill and almost ten months after the Governor urged the Health Commissioner to do everything in his power to get medical marijuana to children suffering from life-threatening forms of epilepsy. To date, not one patient has received medical marijuana, and at least four children, who might have benefitted from medical marijuana, have died since the bill was passed.

“The Governor announced in January 2014 that he was reactivating the 1980 Olivieri medical marijuana ‘research’ program, and 17 months later nothing has come of it,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, sponsor of the bill.  “There are New Yorkers suffering right now whose lives could be made better by access to medical marijuana. If the Department of Health does not believe it can have the 2014 Compassionate Care Act system fully up and running before 2016, the least it can do is offer emergency relief to the patients who need it most.”

“We have a responsibility to deliver immediate and necessary relief to patients suffering from unbearable pain and illness,” bill co-sponsor and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb said. “Children and families deserve every effort to get life-saving remedies now, rather than wait for the wheels of government to turn. Implementing the state’s medical marijuana program is a complicated process that will take time. Patients in pain should not be forced to wait for help they can access today.”

The Assembly is expected to vote on and pass the bill with bipartisan support later today. Patients and families now look to the Senate to take action.

Senator Joseph Griffo, sponsor of the bill in the Senate, noted: “We cannot continue to allow critically ill children like Mackenzie to suffer any longer if we have the ability to offer them relief from their life-threatening conditions. At least four children have died waiting for access to medical marijuana since the Legislature passed the Compassionate Care Act last year, so I believe we have an obligation to ensure that no other child’s life is put at further risk by delaying treatment that could lessen their pain. I have sponsored legislation that would expedite access to medical marijuana for those patients in urgent need of relief in accordance with the law, and I strongly urge my colleagues in the Senate to join me in taking action on behalf of Mackenzie and other children who desperately need this treatment.”

Since July, advocates have been pressuring the Cuomo Administration to create an interim emergency access program for patients who may not survive the eighteen months or longer that the Governor has said he needs to get the full medical marijuana program up and running. Applications for producers were just submitted last Friday, and the earliest the program would be operational is January 2016. The Gottfried/Griffo bill offers critically ill patients a ray of hope in the face of inaction by the Cuomo Administration.

“Our daughter, Mackenzie, suffers from seizures all the time that cause serious injuries including bruises, chipped teeth and concussion. We are terrified that the next seizure could result in a fall that takes her life. Our entire family is constantly on guard. The healthcare, medications, and a severely restricted diet are not enough to control my daughter’s seizures,” said Julie Kulaway, a nurse and mother of a child with epilepsy from Mills, New York. “We are grateful that Senator Griffo introduced the emergency medical marijuana access bill and hope that the rest of the Senate takes his lead to give our little girl a chance at a more normal life.”

The original version of New York’s medical marijuana bill included a provision to provide emergency access to medical marijuana for those patients too ill to wait for the full program to become operational. The Governor’s Office had that provision removed during bill negotiations last year, leaving critically ill patients vulnerable. Just days after the bill was signed into law, two children, who would have likely benefited from medical marijuana, died from their seizure disorders. Two additional children, whose families helped lobby for the bill, have since died – one from seizures and another brain cancer.

In April, the Department of Health finalized extremely restrictive regulations for the medical marijuana program that could prevent patients from obtaining the treatment they need. Despite requests from hundreds of patients and families across the state requesting an emergency access program, the regulations contain no provisions for expediting access for those suffering from terminal or life-threatening illnesses.

“As a physician I know the medications prescribed to my son have dangerous side effects. We keep him on the drugs in an effort to control his seizures, and they don’t always work,” said Dr. Amy Piperato of Thiells. “We deserve better options. Vincent and all of New York’s children like him need emergency medical marijuana access now. We are calling on the New York State Senate for help.”

Last July, under pressure from advocates, Governor Cuomo instructed Health Commissioner Zucker to expedite access to medical marijuana for children with severe epileptic disorders. But almost a year later, with no sign of progress from the Administration, families and patients are placing their faith in the legislature, hoping the Senate will pass the bill before the session ends on June 17th.

Rebecca Campo, a nurse and epilepsy patient from Staten Island said: “I am a nurse working with traumatic brain injury patients, and I am disabled by epilepsy. I am lucky to report that the medications I’m on right now are controlling my seizures, but I don’t know how long that will last, and the side effects are devastating. I am pleading the New York State Senate takes action to help New Yorkers like me and many of my patients, whose lives are threatened as long as we are denied emergency medical marijuana access.”

Currently, those with terminal or critical illnesses and their families are forced to break the law, move to a state where medical marijuana is legally available, or watch their loved ones suffer knowing that there is a medication that could help them.

The bill would instruct the state to establish an emergency program for critically ill patients so that they can start receiving medical marijuana as quickly as possible. It also instructs the state to issue patient cards to critically ill patients who qualify as soon as possible making it clear that they are medical marijuana patients and affording them some protection from law enforcement and child protective services. Recently, Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia swiftly signed a medical marijuana law to help children with severe epilepsy and announced the system should be up and running in the next 30 to 60 days. He went further and issued temporary patient cards to several families who had moved to other states as they awaited action so that they could return home without fear of being prosecuted.

“Families and patients in New York are tired of legalistic and bureaucratic excuses from the Cuomo Administration, especially given the tragic deaths of at least four young children. The failure of the Cuomo Administration to act in the face of this kind of heartbreak and suffering is unconscionable,” said Julie Netherland, PhD, deputy state director at the Drug Policy Alliance. “We are pleased to see the Assembly taking leadership on this issue and hope the Senate will act quickly before it’s too late. Many of these patients simply cannot wait any longer for relief.”

Source: Drug Policy Alliancemake a donation

  • Jon Alan

    What about people suffering severe chronic pain like cancer and, in my case, a failed lumbosacral 3 disk fusion causing horrific pain, years of prescribed hard narcotics managed by a poor choice of a pain management doctor. He insisted I stay on what turned out to be a very high dose of oxycontin and oxycodone and ultimately my body (endocrine, gastrointestinal and muscular) began to be decimated by the prolonged use of these harsh drugs. I moved 100 miles away from this pain doctor and weaned off the narcotics (and related medicines like anti-depressants and benzodiazepines).
    I am a child of the Woodstock generation and in my youth I had access to marijuana. I KNOW that it will relieve the severe chronic pain I suffer from and the associated complicating symptoms like chronic anxiety, chronic insomnia and appetite loss. In addition, the long term use of high dose oxycontin, once I weaned off of it, caused the surfacing of progressive autonomic sensory polyneuropathy. The oxycontin caused or masked the development of my particular polyneuropathy symptoms, which include additional severe unmitigated pain and overall physical weakness.
    Instead of having access to medical marijuana from a certified clinic I am now forced to take a different, supposedly milder, semi-opiod pain prescription. These opiod drugs are damaging to the human body. The proper alternative is medical marijuana which has NONE of the excessively deleterious effects of the opiods, anti-depressants and benzodiazepines.
    My elected and appointed state government officials in Albany, NY have turned their backs on the people who have elected them by refusing to implement a sensible medical marijuana program. CHILDREN and others have died due to their insensitivity. Others, like myself, whose lives WOULD be improved far more safely with medical marijuana are forced to wait and suffer and sometimes die while the medical marijuana program is stalled in its rollout. The NY State elected officials enacted a rediculous and foolish medical marijuana program many many months ago and even that program has yet to be implemented in any form, and children and others have died.
    When did our elected officials start ignoring their constituents and the majority will of the people they are supposed to represent in favor of the special interests and the Big Pharma cartel? I believe in laws that are fair, appropriate and reflect the will of the people. The prohibition of this much less to non-noxious medicinal marijuana alternative, PROVEN to have a broad range of positive medically significant effects, with NONE of the side effects I referred to with respect to the narcotic opiods in particular, and having the overwhelming support of the majority against this prohibition, is reflective of the agenda of a failed and distorted and corrupt war on drugs.
    We need to know who the elected officials are who are blocking the will of the people and they must be replaced with elected officials whose only special interest group is the people who have elected them.
    Until decency and compassion return to the halls of government I do not believe we are being appropriately represented by our elected officials and their appointees.

    • jason

      @ Jon Alan – problem is, for any of these politicians to even get to a position of power they have to raise so much money, they have to become beholden to who gives them money, lest they lose the ability to get -re-elected. The real issue is money in politics and the career politicians.
      My aunt said it best, being a member of a state or federal congress should be like jury duty..you want to get in , get the job done and leave..

      http://legalinsurrection.com/2012/08/the-congressional-wealth-gap/

      Simple fixes that no one in a position of power will ever vote for though – term limits and kick out the lobbyists

      All anyone needs for proof that the system we have now is corrupt is look at the net worth of anyone, no matter the party, before and after they serve…what you will find is a “mysterious” jump in their net worth that far exceeds what their salary or even smart investment choices could garner…they are paid off plain ans simple, and if not while theyr are in office, it comes after they get the cush private sector job they were promised to get, if the “vote” the way they “should”

      This does put us folks in the legalization game at odds because to get what we need done may require us to dance with the lobbyist devil…so we have to decide..correct a large social injustice by succumbing to another, possible bigger evil that is in the form of money driven political results…

      • MrBudWyzer

        My question is…How is Cuomo not considered a murder…I know he has the power to institute an emergency bill to provide relief for those who suffer many ailments that it is proven med mj does work…I WILL NEVER VOTE FOR THIS MORON AGAIN…

        • ted mishler

          I believe politicians do not have the MOTIVATION to protect all of our rights, so the only way to re-motivate them, is simply by showing them that they themselves are criminals that deserve to be hanged through a world court, as our courts here in the states are corrupt..
          Cuomo can swing and sway, while we imbibe on cannabis, and listen to Sammy Kaye:-)
          We can drink 2 liter bottles of mountain dew, while watching chris christie hang while he curses our constitutional freedoms promised to me and you
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn-QVWHx0qA&index=12&list=PLkUP-HQvVVcyIa6AMgPUulD8gKQQmhs6w

        • jason

          well I’ve been saying fora while now, and I’m no legal exspert so correct me if I’m wrong about this, but…I think what is going to happen is cannabis will get de-shceduled all together and here’s is why. I think if the powers that be re-schedule it to say schedule 2, thus recognizing it to have medical benefits…at that point I think anyone who stands or stood in the way of allowing it’s medical use might open themselves up to some severe litigation through civil court or class action suits. If it get de-scheduled all together it would treated like any other herbal substance and not subject to FDA regs etc..Herbal medicine is not considered a drug, therefore FDA does not lord over it…

    • Lawrence Goodwin

      Your story and plight break the heart, Jon Alan, much like the stories of all New Yorkers who stand to benefit from medical cannabis. For 15 years in the Capital Region, I’ve been writing in favor of legalizing cannabis cultivation and constantly monitoring related developments in the state Legislature. I can assure you we are VERY close. Staten Island Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried are real saviors for joining forces on this matter. But the good people of Compassionate Care New York (www.compassionatecareny.org)–composed of dozens of patient advocates from every region of the state, brought together in groups by some very talented and determined ladies and gents based in the Big Apple–also helped to get medical cannabis legislation passed. They deserve a LOT of credit for that victory, since they had to overcome stubborn opposition from some of NY’s most arrogant and heartless politicians. Thousands of cannabis seeds should be in soil by the first week of July.

      Please, don’t give up! There is so much you can do to make a difference for yourself and everyone else. Start by writing Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Howard Zucker, commissioner of the NYS Department of Health, polite letters demanding immediate access to medical cannabis. These two men basically run NY’s medical cannabis program (I guarantee that a truly compassionate woman, such as Ms. Savino, does a FAR better job of caring about ailing New Yorkers). Urge Mr. Cuomo and Dr. Zucker to expand the list of conditions covered; to increase the number of cannabis growing facilities and dispensaries in New York; and to let New Yorkers smoke seedless female flowers of cannabis IF THEY SO CHOOSE. Aside from general public safety issues, it’s NOT the politicians’ damned business how cannabis is sold or consumed. The saddest part is how New York boldly took the lead on researching this issue in 1980, 35 f!@#ing years ago, by passing the nation’s first state-level “therapeutic research” law for medical cannabis. Voting out the bastards who keep prolonging the Anti-Marihuana Tyranny is NOT an option. They need to be put in prison for depriving so many New Yorkers of their fundamental rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

  • ted mishler

    Cannabis users are no criminals. Cannabis use is no state right, it is a human right.
    Urinalysis is a crime in its self. There is nothing in our constitution that gives anyone the right to discriminate so.
    The feds’ addiction to high treason shows me that the feds have a lack of motivation to honor and carry out their duties of protecting everyones’ constitutional rights. All those in office take oaths to do just that, instead they commit perjury, and war against us?
    Gallows. Gallows need to be built in every large city, where the traitors to our country can do some good, and become fertilizer.
    No world court would find in favor of scum like the feds, with their warrior ways, and living wages for themselves – corrupt, and all employers who take part in this war through urinalysis to gain their tax breaks, the moochers, they deserve the gallows as well, you wait and see, world courts will find them guilty, and chris christie should be afforded an extra large rope to hang him with too, as we drink our large drinks mountain dew
    An executive order to end the high treasonous war against all who happen to use cannabis in communities all accross the states could be signed by the president.
    He refuses to do so.
    I’m curious if the world court will see to it that the president be hanged as well, he could have ended the war, and protected those of us in the cannabis community, but instead, he chose to do nothing

  • been there

    I must have missed the part about how that glorious organization called NORML has gotten involved – Oh wait, they haven’t – must not be enough money in it for them.

  • Rolando mota

    “CAN SOMEONE PLS HELP ME WAT’S WRONG WITH MY MARIJAUNA PLANT!!!!!!!!!!!